Last week, consumers in Turkey had a rude awakening to the negative reality of using too much plastic and the critical need for the entire world to change their ways. As of Jan. 1, shops in Turkey began implementing a TL 0.25 ($0.05) charge for plastic bags, which for many has come as quite a shock.
With this change, suddenly awareness has surfaced of the importance of how we use plastic bags, as we are now paying for them. But more importantly, in line with the very reason behind implementing these changes, what we need to be doing as a whole is trying to diminish the waste we create in the first place and hence, the "zero waste" movement Turkey has embarked upon.
Speaking with Jodie Harburt, a British native based in Şile, Istanbul who is involved in the zero waste movement and the founder of ECO Istanbul, a platform for ecological events and ideas, I had the opportunity to learn more about what zero waste actually means and ways to implement more zero waste practices into our daily lives. Jodie explains that practicing zero waste means to "reduce" by avoiding packaging and bags, "re-use," to use again and again, and then as the last resort to "recycle."
"Therefore, the most important step is to minimize the use and production of plastic bags and containers altogether and to facilitate a change in the habits of the population," she says, which she explains is the desired result of the new legislation.
"The new legislation here in Turkey, and in other countries that have adopted similar practices, will have two major effects," explains Jodie, describing the first as being "to reduce the amount of plastic that goes into landfills around the world and two, will change the detrimental habits of the consumer." The bottom line is, as a result of the new plastic bag law, we will become accustomed to carrying reusable bags and hopefully there will be increased national awareness of the detriment of the waste produced to our environment.
The importance of Turkey's new move is multifold, "worldwide attempts to clean up our mess are most often only about crisis management rather than deep solutions and many are proving ineffective," said Jodie, emphasizing why it is so important that we reduce plastic use and aim to not produce it in the first place. Explaining that machines that sweep the floating trash off the sea surface are unable to clear submerged and sunken debris, Jodie said, "This means that nothing can take away the microparticles of plastic that have already been found, not only in fish and animals but inside humans too. Plastic is in our food systems and the effects are only just becoming known to us; the plastic in us causes endocrine disruption with permanent effects on our health potentially causing forms of cancer and infertility that we will pass on for generations."
I asked Jodie to share some top tips for consumers who have been faced with the harsh reality this week that we need to change our ways immediately. Harburt has generously shared eight great zero waste tips we can all incorporate into our daily lives to help save our health and the planet.
Tip #1: Reuse all of the plastic bags you have. It's true, at TL 0.25 per shot; plastic bags have now suddenly become indispensable, which they should have been from the beginning. Save all the plastic bags you have or are going to buy and take care of them so they can be reused again and again.
Tip #2: Make sure you have bags with you when you leave the house. Put extra bags in your handbag, briefcase, jacket pocket or car. "Consider training your mind by not shopping unless you have the bags and then soon your habits will change," said Jodie.
Tip #3: Buy or make cloth bags or string bags, preferably using materials that are either natural or recycled. For example, make lightweight cloth bags using old pillow cases or sheets and use these for buying all of your fruit and vegetables. "I even use these for buying loosely sold rice and pulses too," says Jodie, adding that if this seems too daunting a task, you can always ask your local tailor to sew them.
Tip #4: Be patient when shopping. Everyone must get used to this new way of shopping. So, don't rush others or allow yourself to be rushed and explain why you are using your own bags to share the information and your enthusiasm.
Tip #5: Carry containers with you to buy meat, fish, cheese, butter and olives, etc. "I use plastic or glass ones with plastic lids," shared Jodie, adding, "Don't let the shop keeper then wrap plastic film around your container though, as this would defeat the entire purpose!"
Tip #6: Take the next step and ensure you have a water container with you and a reusable portable cup if you like to drink take out coffee. That way you avoid using single-use plastic water bottles and the worst offender, which Jodie says are the misleading paper cups which have a plastic lining inside.
Tip #7: "Love your planet a bit more by trying to never buy those little single-portion packets of juice and flavored milk, etc. that come in containers with straws," said Jodie, pointing out that neither of which can be recycled or reused.
Tip #8: Shop from stores that sell goods without packaging and loose fruits and vegetables. With the ample farmers markets, bulk fruit and nuts and spice shops in Turkey we are very fortunate to be able to do so. If we make just a little bit of effort, there are definitely a number of ways to purchase goods without packaging whatsoever, which is the ultimate goal of the zero waste movement.
For more tips on how to live a conscious and zero waste life, you can follow Jodie on her blog at www.multitudeofones.com and check out her impressive artwork at www.jodieharburt.com or follow her social media accounts.